Malcolm Clarke is right, Potteries fans need mutual respect, not mockery

OVF editor Rob Fielding applauds the views of prominent Stoke City supporter Malcolm Clarke on Tuesday’s Checkatrade incidents.

Rob Fielding writes…

Given recent comments by fanzine writers which called for “mockery” of Vale fans (I think that tag is actually more appropriate for the Stoke City “fans” who are so “brave” they smash up inanimate toilet blocks) an alternative and far more considered view of Tuesday’s incidents has emerged.

Malcolm Clarke is the Football Supporters Federation representative at Stoke City. His comments, which I hope he doesn’t mind being reproduced in full below, show that sensible, fair-minded Stoke City fans do exist.

I have met fans of other clubs – be that Bristol City, Wycombe, Brentford or Orient – and I’ve been able to enjoy watching games with them where there is no need to abuse each other, where there’s bragging rights up for grabs over ninety minutes but that’s it. For me we are all football fans but due to circumstances, we wear different colours.

I have respect for other fans – for me the Stoke fan who goes to every game and gives their all in support of the Potters is as worthy of respect as the Vale fans who do the same. And that’s why I agree with Malcolm Clarke when he writes that we are “fellow football fans from the same great City who happen to support a smaller club than ours. Our neighbours.”

Port Vale fans can also learn from these words. As incidents over the years have proved, a section of Vale fans are no innocents and do as much to damage Port Vale as the idiots supporting Stoke on Tuesday did to the Potters’ reputation. Both clubs’ fans should take heed of Malcolm’s comments and learn the art of respecting not abusing the opposition fans.

Perhaps if there was more focus on sensible fans like Malcolm rather than provocateurs belittling their rivals and calling for mockery (I almost expected to read that writer call for some “bantz” next) then perhaps there would be more respect and fewer disgraceful scenes the next time the two clubs meet.

Well said Malcolm!

The following was posted on the Oatcake fanzine forum:

Having read contributions on this, I’m afraid I take a very different view to at least some of my fellow stokies, and, very unusually, perhaps uniquely, with Martin as expressed in his Sentinel column. Before the specifics, some general points. Firstly, generalisations about the supporters of any club are always inappropriate. To a greater or lesser extent, all clubs have some supporters who sometimes behave badly, and all clubs have people who post silly or offensive things on social media. Stoke City included. This Board included. Port Vale included.

In the past we rightly rejected generalisations about Stoke City fans based on the behaviour of a minority. After last Tuesday that reputation has begun to return, and we will rightly again reject the generalisations. But it is then completely inconsistent to make generalisations about “Vale fans” based on what a few of them might put on social media. To do so in offensive terms like “thickest *****”; “vile”; “inbreds” etc etc says far more about the people making those comments than it does about fellow football fans from the same great City who happen to support a smaller club than ours. Our neighbours.

Port Vale are not a “small insignificant club”. They are a Football League club. Yes, they are smaller and less rich than Stoke City. They are bigger than Leek Town and Newcastle Town, who are themselves bigger than Kidsgrove Athletic. So what ? The depth of the english football pyramid is a huge strength which is the envy of many other football nations. I get exasperated by fans who play Billy Big Time towards fans of smaller clubs, whether it is Man U fans towards Stoke fans or Stoke fans towards Vale fans. The more so when “fans” who bought their tickets from Stoke City have just trashed Vale’s ground.

I think criticism of Vale fans who objected to their owner considering giving established home areas over to away fans on the grounds that he is turning down much needed money is also misplaced. So even we now accept that money must always talk in football do we ? Would we ever accept an owner doing that for financial reasons with the Boothen end ? The fact that we may have done something similar 30 years ago, when many of the people reading this weren’t even born is hardly relevant.

This competition has already been spoiled by money, when the big clubs, including us, have bribed the EFL L1/2 clubs ones to admit the academy teams, in our football interest not theirs. Imagine if instead of Warey’s magnificent winner at Peterborough we had been playing Norwich under 21s, or whoever. Or how much less the occasions would have meant if we had played Academy sides at Wembley instead of Stockport and Bristol City? If we had a more equitable distribution of football’s huge wealth, as we should have, it wouldn’t be necessary for clubs in L1/2 to accept such bribes.

And if, god forbid, as Smudge postulates, Vale did go into administration again, I hope, and believe, many Stoke fans WOULD rally round to help. I believe it because time and again english football fans have shown a willingness to help fellow fans from clubs in crisis, recognising that what we have in common as football fans far outweighs on field rivalries. But if I was wrong about that, the FSF would co-ordinate help from fans of other clubs, which would be forthcoming.

Violent or racist behaviour by a minority of Vale fans at other games recently, or at our ground many years ago, is also totally irrelevant, both to the behaviour by some of our “fans” on Tuesday, and to the question of whether Stoke City should pay for the damage. I personally think it should. Not because our Club is in any way responsible ( it isn’t) or because the large majority of our regular fans are (they certainly aren’t) or because there is any legal obligation to do so (there isn’t), or because Vale have a great and competent owner (they don’t) but simply because, as a club which has just come out of the PL, we are far richer than our neighbours, and we sold the tickets to the perpetrators of the criminal damage.

Last night I was at the League Managers Association annual dinner at Wembley. Normally at these events, people in football I already know and meet start asking about fans issues like standing areas, ticket prices, games moved for TV etc. Last night it was about Tuesday – are Stoke fans going back to the bad old days?; why did it happen ? what a disgrace etc etc. I became acutely aware of the damage this has done to our reputation. I fear we may get more robust policing and stewarding or even reduced allocations on the back of it. Thanks guys.

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